Board member takes issue with state report cards
By Brianna Vogel
WEST BEND — In the wake of district report cards, one school board member is calling for reform to consider other student accomplishments in addition to raw numbers.
West Bend Board of Education member Nancy Justman asked a question she said she poses every year — will the Department of Public Instruction ever take into consideration information other than test scores?
“Are we ever going to get to a point where we get student achievement beyond the ACT or Aspire or whatever? This is irritating to me,” Justman said. “We have students who probably are 3.8 or 4.0 students who aren’t necessarily great test takers, so they feel bad after the test, even though they’re some of our highest graduating students doing remarkable things.”
Even though the state is not including this information now, Justman asked the district’s director of continuous improvement and assessment Jennifer Gennerman if there would be a way to work toward factoring in other criteria so students’ various abilities would be acknowledged. It is also not the most accurate representation of students, Justman said, because it does not consider a pattern of achievements over time.
“The test is just a snapshot of one day,” she said. “Bam, I had a headache, I didn’t feel good, I stunk, but I was here in school for how many months doing great.”
Many students are phenomenal people and have many accolades outside of test scores, Justman said, which is why she is in favor of reporting reform.
Superintendent Don Kirkegaard agreed with Justman and said it is important to remember the state report card is only one piece of education.
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“We have a lot of other things to address on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis to show that it’s not just about this one test,” Kirkegaard said. “We’re not happy with some of our scores, and whether it’s one day or not, we think we should be higher in some areas and we’re going to work on those.”
The West Bend School District scored a 72.3 percent — meets expectations, which is .7 percent away from the next highest category. In total, 96 percent of Wisconsin schools scored meets or exceeds expectations, including the West Bend schools.
In the priority areas, student achievement scored 71.1 percent, district growth received 61.3 percent, students scored 67.4 percent in closing the gaps and 88.3 percent for on track and postsecondary readiness.
Gennerman broke down each priority area into criteria that factored into the overall score, such as the English language arts achievement and mathematics assessment tests that together produced the student achievement category. In district growth, Gennerman said they are looking for added value — students exceeding predictions made by the Department of Public Instruction.
School board president Joel Ongert said these results highlight the high quality instruction by West Bend teachers and the strong learners in the district. While he said he’s pleased with some aspects, there is always room for growth.
“Improving our state report card results every year takes laser focus on our goals and what we are doing everyday to drive results,” Ongert said. “It is a team effort between our teachers, staff and parents at home.”
One thing students of all ages can do on their end to increase scores, he said, is read.
“If I could encourage our parents to do one thing to help drive results in the classroom, it would be to make sure your student is reading at home,” Ongert said. “I hope during the upcoming holiday breaks our students will read, read, read!”
Strengths in the district include all five elementary schools earning either exceeds or significantly exceeds expectations. At Jackson Elementary School, the closing gaps category earned a 97.9 percent and at McLane Elementary School, student achievement scored 95 percent.
Gennerman said the process to develop the district and school continuous improvement plans includes close analysis of test results to create strategic actions. School principals, assistant principals and district leadership together review all information to decide how to adjust the district and school continuous improvement plans based on areas of strength and weakness from the year prior.
English language arts (ELA), math and closing gaps are the main focus areas for all schools.
“This year our ELA strategic actions include providing professional development and coaching to our ELA teachers focusing on specific areas of a comprehensive literacy model,” Gennerman said. “In addition, across our district, teachers in all subject areas are engaging in a process to achieve greater impact instructional strategies to meet the needs of all learners.”
The data provides much insight, she said, into how well the district is improving from one year to the next.
“It is one of a variety of tools and data we use to gauge our efforts and their success,” Gennerman said. “With that said, we will always continue to strive for better student outcomes for all learners at all levels.”